Category Archives: Public Administration

Nudging Early Reduces Administrative Burden: Three Field Experiments to Improve Code Enforcement

Source: Elizabeth Linos, Lisa T. Quan, Elspeth Kirkman, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Early View, November 5, 2019
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From the abstract:
In the past decade, public sector organizations around the world have worked to simplify administrative processes as a way to improve user experience and compliance. Academic evidence on administrative burden supports this approach and there is a strong body of research showing that learning costs, compliance costs, and psychological costs help to explain why residents do not always take up programs for which they are eligible. This article considers the role of these types of costs in a different set of resident‐state interactions: compliance with regulations. We present the results of three large field experiments aimed at improving resident compliance with municipal housing codes using targeted behavioral interventions. We find that contacting property owners earlier, redesigning first notices, and proactively communicating with previous violators, can significantly improve compliance by 14.7 percent, 3.3 percent, and 9.2 percent, respectively, with costs savings ranging from 6 to 15 percent of a city’s annual enforcement budget. Our results counterintuitively suggest that sometimes adding steps to an administrative process can reduce the costs associated with the resident‐state interaction.

Using Data Analysis for Better Decision Making

Source: Sanford Hess, Government Finance Review, June 2019

Let’s start with the bad news: There are no magic solutions here. Data connectivity is an aspirational goal, like operational efficiency. As defined in this article, “data connectivity” is the act of taking information from different computer systems and combining it to gain better insights. As you have probably seen already, that’s harder than it sounds. Why is data connectivity so difficult? It makes sense that computer systems should be able to talk to each other. And in fact, they can. There are endless ways for computer systems to share information, starting with the prosaic .csv file (.csv = comma-separated values) and going all the way through realtime direct access. The problem is the data…. The challenge of data connectivity is finding the commonality between systems. How do you make a financial system “speak” to a property database? Or police arrests? They usually have different transaction formats, reference codes, and even inconsistent code values to represent the same thing….

Minority Public Administrators: Managing Organizational Demands While Acting as an Advocate

Source: Kristen Carroll, Kenicia Wright, Kenneth J. Meier, The American Review of Public Administration, Volume 49 Issue 7, October 2019
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From the abstract:
Building on the work of Adam Herbert, this research examines how minority managers navigate the pressures of their organization versus the pressures of their community. Organizational socialization suggests that the socialization process will introduce employees to the goals and priorities of the organization and result in similar behaviors among managers. However, social identities (i.e., race, gender) also significantly influence the values, attitudes, and behaviors of a public servant. Navigating these two competing pressures, minority managers often experience role conflict in their work. We theoretically explore and empirically examine how race affects minority managers’ perceptions, networking behaviors, and hiring outcomes. We test our hypotheses using 6 years of school superintendent survey data. We find that racial minority managers behave in similar ways to their White peers as they have similar perceptions of their role in the organization and engage in professional networking behavior at similar rates. However, minority managers separately address the interests of their same-race minority community by hiring same-race street-level bureaucrats. As public organizations have grown increasingly diverse, this research revisits the experiences of minority public administrators and contributes to our understanding of how race and social identities contemporarily influence public managerial behaviors.

Artificial Intelligence, Discretion, and Bureaucracy

Source: Justin B. Bullock, The American Review of Public Administration, Volume 49 Issue 7, October 2019
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From the abstract:
This essay highlights the increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI) in governance and society and explores the relationship between AI, discretion, and bureaucracy. AI is an advanced information communication technology tool (ICT) that changes both the nature of human discretion within a bureaucracy and the structure of bureaucracies. To better understand this relationship, AI, discretion, and bureaucracy are explored in some detail. It is argued that discretion and decision-making are strongly influenced by intelligence, and that improvements in intelligence, such as those that can be found within the field of AI, can help improve the overall quality of administration. Furthermore, the characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses of both human discretion and AI are explored. Once these characteristics are laid out, a further exploration of the role AI may play in bureaucracies and bureaucratic structure is presented, followed by a specific focus on systems-level bureaucracies. In addition, it is argued that task distribution and task characteristics play a large role, along with the organizational and legal context, in whether a task favors human discretion or the use of AI. Complexity and uncertainty are presented as the major defining characteristics for categorizing tasks. Finally, a discussion is provided about the important cautions and concerns of utilizing AI in governance, in particular, with respect to existential risk and administrative evil.

The Anti-Public Administration Presidency: The Damage Trump Has Wrought

Source: Charles T. Goodsell, The American Review of Public Administration, OnlineFirst, July 25, 2019
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From the abstract:
President Trump and his Administration have gravely damaged the institutions and values of American public administration. Harm has been done to the federal workforce, the policymaking process, the integrity of missions, agencies and programs, and the government’s relation to science.

Does Increasing Racial Minority Representation Contribute to Overall Organizational Performance? The Role of Organizational Mission and Diversity Climate

Source: Hongseok Lee, The American Review of Public Administration, Early View, March 10, 2019
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From the abstract:
One underexplored question in the representative bureaucracy literature is whether public employees advocate for their demographic groups at the expense of other groups or their organizational roles. Many studies have focused on the link between passive representation, or the extent to which the public workforce reflects the demographic characteristics of its clients, and active representation, or the extent to which policies advance the interests of those people. However, little research has been done on whether and when increased representation by a certain group enhances overall organizational performance. This study examines the relationship between racial minority representation in U.S. federal agencies and the agencies’ goal achievement while considering the moderating role of organizational mission and diversity climate. The panel data analysis shows that increased minority representation lowers agencies’ goal achievement. However, a positive relationship exists between the two in agencies that mainly work to promote social equity for disadvantaged populations and foster a positive diversity climate in the workplace. These findings suggest that racial minority employees can better contribute to organizational success in agencies where they balance advocacy and organizational roles well and they are treated fairly and respectfully.

How Government and Community Nonprofit Collaboration and Non-Collaboration Affects Public Sector Outcomes

Source: Rebecca H. Padot, International Journal of Public Administration, OnlineFirst, February 15, 2019
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From the abstract:
This four state foster care study seeks to understand what practices state public managers perform with regards to community nonprofits that contributes to effectiveness in producing better public sector outcomes. The study produced key player field research data on the conditions under which community nonprofits produce better public sector outcomes.

This article offers reasons as to why some effective community nonprofits were able to achieve collaboration with the public sector, while others were not, despite their effectiveness. Effective public managers in the area of foster care administration permit, and at times recruit, community nonprofits to have an impact on their foster care domain, while ineffective public managers never reach out to community nonprofits as partners or further yet, block nonprofits from access.

Development of a Coding and Crosswalk Tool for Occupations and Industries

Source: Thomas Rémen, Lesley Richardson, Corinne Pilorget, Gilles Palmer, Jack Siemiatycki, Jérôme Lavoué, Annals of Work Exposures and Health, Advance Access, June 15, 2018
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From the abstract:
Job coding into a standard occupation or industry classification is commonly performed in occupational epidemiology and occupational health. Sometimes, it is necessary to code jobs into multiple classifications or to convert job codes from one classification to another. We developed a generic tool, called CAPS-Canada (, that combines a computer-assisted coding tool covering seven International, Canadian and US occupation and industry classifications and an assistant facilitating crosswalks from one classification to another. The objectives of this paper are to present the different functions of the CAPS-Canada tool and to assess their contribution through an inter-rater reliability study.

The crosswalk assistant was built based on a database of >30,000 jobs coded during a previous project. We evaluated to what extent it would allow automatic translation between pairs of classifications. The influence of CAPS-Canada on agreement between coders was assessed through an inter-rater reliability study comparing three approaches: manual coding, coding with CAPS-Canada without the crosswalk assistant, and coding with the complete tool. The material for this trial consisted of a random sample of 1000 jobs extracted from a case–control study and divided into three subgroups of equivalent size.

Across the classification systems, the crosswalk assistant would provide useful information for 83–99% of jobs (median 95%) in a population similar to ours. Eighteen to eighty-one percent of jobs (median 56%) could be entirely automatically recoded. Based on our sample of 1000 jobs, inter-rater reliability in occupation coding ranged from 35.7 to 66.5% (median 53.7%) depending on the combination of classification/resolution. Compared with manual coding, the use of CAPS-Canada substantially improved inter-rater reliability.

CAPS-Canada is an attractive alternative to manual coding and is particularly relevant for coding a job into multiple classifications or for recoding jobs into other classifications.

Unfilled Jobs Take Toll on Governments Across the Country

Source: Katherine Barrett & Richard Greene, Governing, February 8, 2018

When vacancies are high, there are consequences — and many places are feeling them. …. Some vacancies are expected, even normal, but when they get too high, there are consequences: Permits aren’t renewed, inspections are missed, backlogs grow, overtime costs swell and services are reduced…..

Why Is Government One of the Worst Industries for Equal Pay?

Source: Katherine Barrett & Richard Greene, Governing, May 18, 2017

Women working in public administration make, on average, 25 percent — or $16,900 — less than men.

Unions help narrow the gender wage gap
Source: Elise Gould and Celine McNichols, Economic Policy Institute, Working Economics Blog, April 3, 2017

….One promising way to address both gender-specific disparities and the broken link between all typical workers’ pay and economy-wide productivity growth is through the resuscitation of collective bargaining. Unions have been proven to provide women with higher wages and better benefits. As shown in the figure below, working women in unions are paid 94 cents, on average, for every dollar paid to unionized working men, compared to 78 cents on the dollar for non-union women as a share of non-union men’s dollar. Furthermore, hourly wages for women represented by unions are 23 percent higher than for nonunionized women. Unions provide a boost to women regardless of their race or ethnicity. The gender wage gap is significantly smaller among both white and black unionized workers than their non-union counterparts. Unionized workers are also more likely to have access to various kinds of paid leave, from paid sick days, vacations, and holidays to paid family and medical leave, enabling them to balance work and family obligations…..